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Tips for becoming a Storm Chasers



     Following is a brief description on how to become a storm chaser. First, you need to be knowledgeable in weather in all its aspects including storm structure and development. You should take a Skywarn class provided by you local national weather service office. You also have to know that every chase is not just about landing the ultimate tornado or the ultimate lightning strike. Storm Chasing is above all a waiting game. 8 out of 10 chases will probably turn up unsuccessful for landing anything more than lightning, hail or heavy rain. Most storm chases can last for 300 to 700 or more miles. But tornados will only last for around 8-12 minutes.

     It is advisable to have at a minimum 2 people, preferably 3, when chasing. The first person is the driver who needs to be focused on the road and the dangers when driving, i.e. driving faster than the speed limit in heavy rain, driving on hail covered roads, driving down dirt roads faster than posted or dodging debris from the immense winds. The second person is the navigator. Their responsibility is to find the quickest way to intercept the storm while leaving you options to make a quick escape if necessary. For example, if the storm or tornado changes direction and heads your way. This person also keeps track of your position on the map at all times. The navigator also takes over the optional 3rd personís responsibility if there isn't a 3rd person. The 3rd person is the observer who documents all the data on the chase like the storm structure, hail or lightning activity, directions the storm or tornado goes and also times of development. This person also helps the navigator find the best routes to take. In addition to that, he checks all the equipment prior to a chase and readies the equipment during a chase. This data recorded during a storm is compiled into a chase log.

     The next thing you need is equipment. Most people think that a camera and their vehicle is all they need for a storm chase. Well, to be more prepared, thereís a little more needed. The equipment that we use on a chase are as follows; a vehicle with 4 wheel drive, an anemometer or a wind speed meter, a dependable weather radio, road maps, gas can filled with gas for emergencies, 7 foot tripod, Nikon F-10 camera with different shutter speeds capable of photographing lightning, Lenses for the camera (35-70mm, 70-220mm, and 500/1000mm), 10-15 rolls of film, extra batteries, Digital camera, Digital camcorder for real time footage, 1 or 2 extra camcorder batteries fully charged, compass for storm direction cause most roads dont go north-south, raingear and a cell phone for emergencies. A couple of optional pieces are a tape recorder for recording data, a laptop with internet access through a cell phone, weather programs for the laptop to receive real time doplar radar. If you have all that, you are fully prepared for a descent chase.

DON'T FORGET THE #1 RULE : SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!!!